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Senate Bill Addresses Antibiotics in Animal Feed

By admin | July 20, 2011

Photo: James McNamara

BY LEAH RILEY

Antibiotics are microorganisms used to kill or slow down the growth of bacteria and to help your body recuperate from illness. They are also sometimes used in animal feed to fatten pigs or speed up the growth of chickens. However, overuse of antibiotics can lower their effectiveness. Bacteria becomes resistant to the drugs and so every time you eat the pork or chicken that contains these antibiotics, you become more vulnerable to different strains of bacteria.

It is estimated that around 80% of all antibiotics in the U.S can be found in animals used for food. In late June, a group of senators re-introduced a bill from 2007 that would limit and eventually fade out the use of antibiotics in animal feed.

The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (or PAMTA) is headed by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and is supported by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA). PAMTA would regulate the seven types of antibiotics that are predominant and important for human medicine, to make sure we don’t develop too much resistance to them. The bill will phase out non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock, require new applications to ensure antibiotics used will not endanger public health, and ensure that antibiotics are still available to use in treatments for sick livestock and pets.

If the bill passes, the animal agriculture industry will get a much needed re-vamp and boost since antibiotics are a critical tool for preventing disease and preserving animal health and welfare. In the meantime, trying to stay healthy instead relying on antibiotics may sound like a better option. Things like food justice initiatives and eating more consciously by eating local and organic foods are all steps in the right direction.

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